Saree not Sorry!

Shrijana

 

Shrijana is a Student Staff Member at the Women’s Center. She is a co-facilitator of Women of Color Coalition and co-leading the Telling Our Stories Project. 

 

 

Before starting my statistics class this semester, I was feeling apprehensive due to the fact that I’ve never taken a statistics course before, not even in high school like most students do. However, today, I can say that I thoroughly enjoy my statistics class (nerd alert!). The numbers make sense to me, the formulas light up a bulb in my brain. As an Economics major, I am fascinated by how economists use statistics. But the factor that makes STAT 351 an influential course for me goes beyond the content of the class. This influence is embodied by my STAT 351 professor, Dr. Nandita Dasgupta.

She is an Indian woman, who comes into class every day wearing a silk or cotton saree, a traditional article of clothing typically worn by South Asian women.

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The first day I saw her attire, I was shocked; my jaw dropped to the floor. I have never witnessed a person of color, teacher or professor, show up to class in traditional cultural wear in all my years of schooling in the American educational system. I was so moved by what seemed normal to her.

Growing up, I was ashamed to share my background of being Nepalese because I felt like I stood out in a negative way as an outcast. I just wanted to be accepted, and I was too afraid to truly be myself.  When I was little, I was so anxious and embarrassed to walk around in public in the United States with my grandmother because she would be wearing a saree. I would think: will people criticize, are they staring at me, are they being racist in their minds, am I seen as weird? But seeing Dr. Dasgupta has inspired me, she was there to teach statistics, her race and gender did not matter.

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Upon this realization, I became sorrowful for my grandmother because she was not given the same educational opportunities as I was. My grandmother was married at the age of sixteen and become a stay at home mom in Nepal. If she was presented with the same academic opportunities as me, I am sure she would have been a very successful woman, possibly a professor like Dr. Dasgupta.

STAT 351 has proven two points to me: math is an intriguing subject and all girls and women should have the right to an education.

After seeing Dr. Dasgupta in an empowering light and reading about her work as an economist and statistician (and to ask her permission to publish this blog), I met with her to get to know her more and explore my own identity.

On a warm, bright Thursday afternoon, we sat outside the RAC at the black tables. Dr. Dasgupta started off the conversation by asking me, “What does Shrijana mean?” And I told her, “Creation.”

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Smiling, she replied, “Good. Most people are not even aware what their name symbolizes.” From there, our personal connection was set and the conversation kicked off.

What does the saree symbolize for you?

The saree is a part of me. I have grown up with the saree and have been inseparable from it. I have never worn anything else before. I would love to wear something else; but, somehow, I feel like my personality would be compromised.

Have you had others comment about your saree before? What was it like?

No. No one has made a bad comment. If they have commented, it was always good, never a derogatory comment.

What made you want to pursue economics/statistics? What do you like most about it?

In high school, I took economics and I loved it. I also loved math; therefore, using math was my priority. Economics and math combined really well. Growing up, English was also my favorite subject, I wanted to be an English major. But, my mother who was also a professor influenced me to pursue economics. She said that it was a more economically sound field.

If you feel comfortable sharing, have you experienced any racism or sexism in the academic world?

No. To my knowledge, I have not felt any sort of discrimination. I do not know why I have not felt it, I like to believe that people are good, kind, and open.

What advice would you give young women of color out there? What about women of color economists/mathematicians?

First of all, I do not look at women of color differently from non-color or Caucasian women.

I do not like the idea of one gender being inferior or superior. I am a human being and I look at everyone else as human beings too. I do not believe in any sort of bias or question of bias. I want individuals to be their best selves. But, there must be some bias somewhere, because we still have gender inequality. To everyone and women of color, I would say have dignity, integrity, honesty, and perseverance. Be proud of your culture, embrace the world and try to develop the world. Women are not an end; they are the means to an end. At the end of the day, be a good human being.

After meeting with Dr. Dasgupta, I felt empowered in my confidence as a woman. My conversation with her served as reassurance that I am enough in my abilities and skills. Talking to her also reminded me that I should not run away from my culture, but embrace it with pride. I went to talk to her about her choice of an article of clothing, but I walked away with wisdom about life.

Check out these resources to learn more about the topics that were covered in the blog:

A dispiriting survey of women’s lot in university economics

A Brief History of India’s Traditional Saree

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Breaking News! A Girl Likes Sports

Shrijana

 

Shrijana is a Student Staff Member at the Women’s Center. She is a co-facilitator of Women of Color Coalition and leading the Telling Our Stories Project. 

 

 

Growing up in a family who used to stay up until 4 AM watching football (soccer), I can say with true honesty that passion for this sport has run through my blood from a very young age. My dad grew up as an F.C. Barcelona (Futbol Club Barcelona) fan and a football fan in general from watching the World Cup to other league games such as La Liga, the English Premier League, and the Bundesliga.

Watching football was the first activity that opened up and strengthened my bond with my dad.

As an only child in a brown family household, I often felt the need to be both the son and daughter to my parents. I became my dad’s best friend through football, my mom used to call us “Barcelona saathiharu” in Nepali which translates to “Barcelona friends” in English. My love for F.C. Barcelona inspired me to pursue learning Spanish in high school and college. The greatest attribute of this bond with my dad was that my gender never played a role in this situation. I never felt less in situations while watching games with him. He taught me a lot and listened to my opinions and rants as well. We shared victories, defeats, along with emotions of sadness, pride, and happiness. Gender never posed as a question between me and my dad.

I did not need to be his son to be his football buddy.

Luckily, this notion continued throughout my life. Even in middle school and high school, I would talk to my male friends with equal respect for football. They would listen to my points and believe me when I stated I was a football fan and F.C. Barcelona was my favorite team. However, this experience was short lived when I arrived at college.

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“Are you a true soccer fan?”

“Name one player on the team besides Messi.”

“Who is the striker for Barcelona?”

These were questions that were asked of me by a male friend while I was wearing my F.C. Barcelona cap. I felt hurt that I was asked these series of questions because I was not believed to be a loyal sports fan. If I was a man, I would not be quizzed for my passion for football or any other sport. Why do I have to answer to a male to be validated for my interests? Although I do not blame my friend for asking these questions, it made me realize how women are delegitimized not just in sporting competitions but as audiences of sports as well.

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Just like this meme expresses the sentiment I experienced, girls all over are not believed for watching sports. Yes, there might be fake fans among the mix just like fake fans among men; however, asking a girl question after question to find a fault in her passion does not take away her right of liking sports. And yes, it is also possible for a girl to know more about sports than a guy.

As I researched more about this topic on the internet (because where else would I found solidarity and angry rants) and talked to my friends, I found out that my feelings were not alone. There were multiple blogs and articles published about how I felt. Reading more on this topic made me revisit something else that someone had also previously said to me. I was once accused of being a sports fan to impress boys or get them to like me. News flash, the world does not revolve around men. Women are not doing anything for the approval of men whether to impress them or win them over. I started watching football before I even talked to a boy. Again, people assigning the need for validation from men to women here continues.

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There are still men out there in all age groups that believe a woman is incapable of having a passionate in-depth conversation about sports, football in my case. I may be seen as an “irrational feminist” especially for those men (or even my male friends reading this). Conversely, several girls and women would agree that they have felt discriminated against because they do not feel respected when discussing or watching sports.

My encounters will not stop me from voicing my opinions on football or my passion for it. I will be loud, I will root for my team, and I will debate those fans who think F.C. Barcelona is not the best team. This blog is not to discount the boys and men who respect women’s opinions on sports like my dad or other male friends who I have shared my passion with. I hope those boys and men out there who were unaware of this issue or have realized they are at fault for acting in this ignorant way serve as better allies for us female sports fans.

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Lastly, to those boys who feel pressured to watch sports to fit in, you do not need the approval of society or others. Do not watch it if you are not into it. Being a sports fan should not be gendered. It is about who you are and what you like.

Similar articles regarding this issue:

 

The Character that Never Left Me

Shrijana

 

Shrijana Khanal is a Student Staff member at the Women’s Center. She is an Economics major with minors in Computer Science and International Relations. Shrijana is a co-facilitator of Pop Culture Pop-Ups at the Women’s Center. 

 

 

As my fingers traced the glazed, gold-plated title of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the seventh time, I felt the same rush of euphoria, nostalgia, and bittersweetness that I did when I read the books for the first time as an eager seven-year-old girl. The Harry Potter series became my refuge during the dark times in my life: an escape from reality and sad thoughts. At the quick turn of a page, I would be transported into another world: a place filled with adventure, love, and friendship. One of my favorite parts of reading the series was my quick attachment to  the characters. The character that stuck with me the most was Hermione, the fearless, smart, and empathetic female member of the golden trio. She became my fictional shero at a young age, and remained this way as I grew up. Hermione taught me that girls can be studious, warriors, and social activists all at once.

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How many times did Hermione save Harry and Ron’s lives? Without her, they would have been slaughtered in the first book. There would be no story to tell about the Boy Who Lived without Hermione. I always admired her for her bravery and wit, whether in the classroom or the battlefield. She was not afraid to be herself. Despite being labeled a “bookworm,” “bossy,” and a “nightmare,” Hermione never abandoned her true qualities. She fought for herself and others along with what she believed in. As a young girl trying to maneuver through a harsh world, Hermione gave me the power to stay true to my values. She taught me that reading books and being the highest-achieving student in your class is cool, and something to be proud of. Hermione gave me the courage to take a stand for issues that were dear to me. She showed me that having emotions is not a bad thing. Most importantly, in a world that is always trying to tear you down, deter you from following your goals, or even presumptuously label you, being an unapologetic girl was the most positive, life-changing thing that could happen to me. For me, Hermione was the best friend and role model I needed.

I saw myself in her; she gave me the confidence to be who I am, a young outspoken, nerdy, and caring woman. Unknown to me at the time, she also gave me the confidence to be a feminist.

Being a woman of color, Harry Potter made it difficult for me to connect with the characters based on race alone, since the series only contained the bare minimum of diversity. However, I did not need race to feel a connection with Hermione. I felt connected with her through her qualities of being studious, kind, and brave. I could easily identify with Hermione because she was not perfect to begin with: she had to go through awkward transitions and transformative setbacks to fully grow. Her development from an “insufferable know-it-all” to a brilliant heroine made her an authentic character.

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However, others may have not have felt this connection with Hermione as I did. Rowling shared that she made the character racially ambiguous on purpose after people were angry that a black actress was cast as Hermione in a London stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Rowling supported her claim by referencing Hermione’s frizzy hair and ambiguous skin color. The concept of a minority playing Hermione is something that makes me immensely happy, but why did it take so long for Rowling to highlight this fact, and for others to accept it? Is the concept of a female lead being played by a woman of color too absurd to digest? For me, this is not feminism. A white girl is not the only person with the power to possess the positive characteristics I saw in Hermione. It is important to see color, because not seeing race devalues what women of color have to offer.

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Although the series was published 10 years ago, it is still relevant to my life and the lives of others (even with its sometimes problematic stances). Personally, I still revisit the books whenever I go through a tough change in my life, as a coping mechanism. Discussing the issues of the series forces me to grow from the innocence I had in my childhood while reading it for the first time. But through everything, Hogwarts will always be there not only to teach you to see the magical and real world differently, but to welcome you home each time.

Click on the links below to learn more about the topics discussed in this blog!

Importance of intersectional feminism

https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/

How many times Hermione saved Harry and Ron’s lives

http://booksandchardonnay.com/19-times-hermione-granger-saved-the-day-so-harry-potter-could-prevail-in-the-end/

JK Rowling Loves Black Hermione Casting In ‘Harry Potter And The Cursed Child’

https://bust.com/books/15328-jk-rowling-loves-black-hermione-in-harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child.html